Unrequited love is a painful, sensitive subject. While your whole heart might belong to someone, that doesn't mean they are obligated to love you back. But that also doesn't mean that your feelings aren't valid or that what you have isn't special.
It does mean that you need to make a choice.
From my personal experience of being on both sides, I can say that your best choice is probably to move on.
However, people do move at different paces emotionally. It can be hard to know whether you've simply developed strong feelings more rapidly than your partner or whether you've reached a stand-still. That's why I asked some experts for their insight.
April Masini, who runs the relationship advice forum AskApril.com, says that time is one way to tell if you're in love with someone who won't love you back.
"If it's been a year of dating, and they can't say the L word, introduce you to parents or their friends, and they keep you compartmentalized from the rest of their lives, chances are, this isn't going to be a great love affair," she says.
If it is love -- or headed in that direction -- then according to Masini, it won't be a secret. Your partner will be open to introducing you to friends and family and will make sure you are the number one person in their life.
"If they don't, you're with someone who isn't ready for that big love affair that you are," Masini says. "They're either killing time until the right one comes along, and you're a human place holder, or they're just not someone who has the emotional tools to commit."
If that sounds harsh, then ask yourself whether that's what your inner voice has been telling you all along. Sometimes, your instincts know if you're in a situation where somebody doesn't love you back. In those cases, it's important to listen to yourself.
And if you don't listen to yourself?
"You're making excuses for his behavior, because you don't want to face the truth," says Dr. Susan Edelman, a psychiatrist who specializes in helping women reclaim their power.
Personally, I am a pro at making excuses -- particularly when someone I am dating wants to continue seeing other people, but I would prefer to be monogamous. Masini says this is a sign as well. And if they're married, that's an enormous red flag.
"When your lover won't get a divorce or move out from a partner's home, or commit to you in a meaningful way, it's because they don't want to. They're getting what they want," says Masini.
"If you want more, that obligation is yours," she adds.
In these cases, your partner might even say that he loves you, but as Masini points out, saying and doing are not the same.
"Chances are, you're never going to come first," she says. "They may love you, but feelings and behavior are two different things."
Edelman agrees that someone who says one thing and does another is a bad sign in a relationship.
"Maybe you never see him, although he says he loves you," says Dr. Edelman.
Even if your partner does see you regularly, keeping too strict of a schedule can often mean that he isn't serious.
"If your partner leaves right after sex, keeps you on a once-a-week schedule and doesn't veer of it, or takes vacations without you, you're not the love of their life," Masini elaborates.
The experts seem to agree that love is not just a feeling, but also a verb. Masini warns against becoming too involved with those she describes as "schedulers" -- people who "want you when they want you and not when they don't."
"This usually means they've got other dates on schedules, or they're not interested in integrating you into their life in a meaningful way," she explains, stressing the importance of spontaneity in a relationship.
Can you and your partner meet up at any time? Can you slap a date together even if your initial plans fall through? That's a good sign, according to Masini.
"In doses, [spontaneity] is a measure of progress in a relationship," she says. "You're further along in the relationship than someone who keeps you at a distance."
What about that person who plays hot and cold? You know, the one who seems to be super emotionally available to you one minute, and then withdraws or disappears to another planet for the rest of the week?
Mixed signals and confusion often lead to suspicion, which might lead you to do something out of character.
"If you're asking where he's been or reading his emails, it's a sign there is a big problem," says Dr. Edelman.
Again, trust your instincts. If you're so anxious about a relationship that you're taking drastic action out of your own suspicions, then there is good cause for a conversation.
And if you don't feel better after that talk? Then I'm sure you'll be on your way to finding somebody worthy of your big love.